Alcatraz, Hearst Castle and the Bay Area’s 5 Most Opulent Event Spaces

In 100 years, we may well be throwing parties at Travis Kalanick’s historic mansion.

Until then, we must make do with the castles of the barons of the 20th century. (Who made their money in newspapers, LOL.)

Yes, you might be able to have cocktails around the exquisite Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle, which reopened last month after a five-year restoration.

It will cost you, of course. And staff advise 16 weeks of advance planning. But it may be possible. (See here for details.)

If you don’t have a spare $20K/16-plus-weeks to plan, we have a few more options for an opulent party, whether for a wedding, super-luxe offsite, app launch or — because it’s that time of year — perhaps your annual holiday party.


Stefanie Seskin/Flickr

Venue: Alcatraz Island (really)
Vibe: Unbelievable
Location: See above
In brief: Yes: Alcatraz is available for special events, with what we can only imagine are myriad restrictions on availability, associated vendors, event type and budgets. (The smallest sample: “No weddings are permitted on Alcatraz” … though huge respect to whoever’s floating that idea.) “Special events must be scheduled for Tuesdays or Wednesdays,” advises their site disclaimer. And the capper: “Private events on Alcatraz must be conducted in areas that are historically appropriate; for example, entertainment activities are not allowed in the main cell block areas.” (See here for some ideas.)
Ideal for: Your version of Bachmanity Insanity, only with more luau aspects


Bently Reserve

Venue: Bently Reserve
Vibe: Austere magnificence (see the 25-foot Doric columns)
Location: Battery Street
In brief: This is literally San Francisco’s former Federal Reserve building, built in 1924 and designed by architect George W. Kelham. There are 11 different spaces within this building; you obviously want the Banking Hall.
Ideal for: Launching your fintech app


Nathan Zanon/Montalvo Arts Center

Venue: Love Temple at Villa Montalvo, at the Montalvo Arts Center
Vibe: Over-the-top romance (see: 10 columns)
Location: Santa Cruz Mountains (specifically, Saratoga)
In brief: Villa Montalvo refers not to its creator but Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo, the Spanish writer who coined the name “California.” It was built by James Duval Phelan, a three-time mayor (of San Francisco) and one-time senator (of California, in D.C.). There’s a huge choice of venues here, but the most ornate is the Love Temple. Hey, we can’t all be like Sean Parker, marrying in the redwoods — sometimes a temple it is.
Ideal for: Marrying a partner whose family thinks you’re not quite good enough for them


The Estate Yountville

Venue: The Founder’s Executive Board Room at Vintage House
Vibe: Extravagant Wine Country manse
In brief: Here’s how to do an off-site in style: at this chic, new hotel, in this space that accommodates “2 to 100 attendees.” After the meeting (and this is obviously the key part), everyone can relax in the spa, or in their rooms in front of a fireplace. If you need something bigger, consider the Pavilion, with room for up to 1,200 (reception, not seated).  
Ideal for: “Important Business Reason” meeting that’s really just an excuse for a couple days in Napa.

Main image: James Byrum/Flickr